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Simone Biles Has Her Teammates’ Support: “She’s Not a Quitter”

It’s official: American gymnast Simone Biles will not be competing in the final individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

In a statement released by USA Gymnastics on social media, Biles officially withdrew on Wednesday to “focus on her mental health” one day after pulling out of the team gymnastics finals. “Simone will continue to be evaluated daily to determine whether or not to participate in next week’s individual event finals,” the statement read. “Jade Carey, who had the ninth highest score in qualifications, will participate in her place in the all-around.” USA Gymnastics extended their support towards Biles’ decision to withdraw, lauding her prioritization of her mental health as an act of “bravery.”

According to The New York Times, Biles twisted fewer times than she had planned during vault on Tuesday. Per AP, Biles afterwards left the podium and consulted with the team doctor, returning to the area in a sweatsuit. She did not compete in uneven bars following vault — instead, teammate Jordan Chiles stepped in.

Biles later told reporters that she had “a little bit of the twisties,” which is a disconnection between the body and the mind that some gymnasts can experience in which they become disoriented while twisting in the air, unable to control or track their bodies regardless of how many times they’ve practiced and completed the skill.

“I had no idea where I was in the air,” Biles said. “I could have hurt myself.”

Many former gymnasts empathized with Biles on social media, explaining that mental blocks like the twisties commonly occur while under pressure and can be extremely dangerous to even basic gymnasts, let alone gymnasts of Biles’ caliber. Biles has spoken on social media about the pressure she’s endured leading up to this year’s Olympic games, saying she feels as though she has “the weight of the world” on her shoulders. The 24-year-old has dominated the sport since she began competing. For Biles, the most decorated gymnast of all-time with four Olympic gold medals under her belt, the expectations are high — which makes the stakes of injury even higher amidst mental health challenges.

“We also have to focus on ourselves, because at the end of the day we’re human, too,” Biles told reporters after her initial withdrawal on Tuesday. “So, we have to protect our mind and our body, rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do.”

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